A Million Chinook
On Sept. 24, the number of adult chinook salmon safely passing Bonneville Dam exceeded 1 million, by far the largest number on record at the storied hydro- power project.
Chinook numbers reached a staggering 1,006,619, with more than two months remaining in the run. This return was largely buoyed by a fall chinook run that numbered 830,177 by the same date.
For comparison, the corresponding 10-year average of chinook is 563,957; for fall chinook it's 345,468. The next-highest return occurred in 2003, with 921,314 chinook returning by Dec. 31 of that year.
This year also registered the top three daily returns, with a single-day return record of 63,870 set on Sept. 9.
The returns are the result of many factors, including efforts by federal, tribal, state and local groups to improve the conditions for salmon and steelhead during the periods of their lifecycle spent in the Columbia River Basin. Many of these improvements have been funded by BPA ratepayers and include estuary and tributary habitat restoration, federal hydropower dam fish passage improvements, modernizing hatcheries and addressing harvest and predation in the river system. Favorable ocean conditions over the past few years also played a significant role.
While many of the chinook were headed for the northern reaches of the Columbia and Hanford Reach in eastern Washington, a significant number headed down the Snake River as a result of a hatchery supplementation program established by the Nez Perce Tribe. These Snake River fall chinook are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
More than 40,000 fall chinook have made their way past Lower Granite, the last of the federal dams on the lower Snake River.
For current return numbers, go to the Fish Passage Center website at www.fpc.org, click on "Adult Data" in the left hand column and select "Daily Passage Report."
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